Interactivity & Simulations - in e-Learning Author: Ruth Thomas

Interactivity & Simulations
               in e-Learning

              Author: Ruth Thomas
Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

This publication is also available electronically on the World
Wide Web at the following address

For additional copies of this document please contact:
MultiVerse Publications
MultiVerse Solutions Ltd
Willow House
Strathclyde Business Park
Tel. +44 (0) 1698 646225
Fax. +44 (0) 1698 464226

Thanks to John Liddle, Bill Austin and Colin Milligan for their
constructive criticism of the document and to Colin Milligan
for drawing the figures.

© Copyright 2001 MultiVerse Solutions Ltd
Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning


           Synopsis                                                                         1
           1 Background                                                                     2
           2 The Importance of Interactivity                                                2
              2:1 What is Interactivity?                                                    2
              2.2 Interactive Simulations                                                   3
              2.3 Teaching and Learning Styles                                              3
                   2.3.1 Learning Styles                                                    3
                   2.3.2 Teaching Styles                                                    3
              2.4 Collaborative Interactivity                                               4
                   2.4.1 Importance of Communication in E-Learning                          4
                   2.4.2 Communication and Simulations                                      4
           3 Key Issues                                                                     4
              3.1 Improving the Cost of Production                                          4
                   3.1.1 Improving the Production Process                                   4
                   3.1.2 Re-using Interactive Simulations.                                  5
              3.2 Improving the Quality                                                     5
                   3.2.1 Customising Interactive Simulations                                6
              3.3 Summary                                                                   6
           4 The Future of Interactivity and Simulations                                    6
              4.1 Collaborative Use of Simulations                                          6
                   4.1.1 Communication Between Tutor and Learners                           7
                   4.1.2 Communication Between Learners                                     7
                   4.1.3 Asynchronous Communication                                         7
                   4.1.4 Synchronous Sharing of Simulations                                 8
              4.2 Integrating Simulations with E-Learning Tools                             9
                   4.2.1 Learning Management System                                         9
                   4.2.2 Assessment Tools                                                   9
           5 The MultiVerse Vision                                                          10
              5.1 MultiVerse Interactive Simulations - The eSim                             10
              5.2 The eSim Development Process                                              11
              5.3 The Basic Toolset                                                         12
                   5.3.1 Model Construction Tools                                           12
                   5.3.2 Interface Construction Tools                                       12
                   5.3.3 Web Deployment Tools                                               13
              5.4 Community of Users                                                        13
           6 The Future                                                                     13
              6.1 Empowering Expertise                                                      13
                   6.1.1 Model Building Tools for the Non-Programmer                        13
                   6.1.2 The Collaboration in the Development Team                          14
              6.2 Improving the Educational Experience                                      14
                   6.2.1 Collaborative Learning                                             14
                   6.2.2 Integration with Other E-Learning Tools                            14
                   6.2.3 Interface Overlays                                                 14
                   6.2.4 Event Triggers                                                     14
           7 Summary                                                                        15
           8 References                                                                     16
Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning


A major challenge facing providers of e-Learning is the provision of
meaningful interactive courseware that is responsive to learners,
allowing them to actively participate in the learning process. This
white paper looks at the nature and desirability of such content,
examining key issues in its effective production.

Looking to the future, the benefits of: sharing interactive content
such as simulations in collaborative learning;fully integrating such
content into managed learning systems and assessment engines are
also discussed.

Finally the MultiVerse vision of making simulations as ubiquitous
and easy to produce and manipulate as graphics or images is
outlined and the novel concept of the e-Sim, an online shareable,
customisable, re-usable, interactive simulation that encapsulates the
ideas in this White Paper is introduced.

Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

                          1 Background
                          The market for online educational products and e-Learning has
                          been increasing rapidly, a trend that is predicted to continue (Merrill
                          Lynch 1999) “Learning for Life” initiatives being promoted by many
                          governments and requirements for continuing professional development
                          are greatly increasing the demand for post secondary education. The
                          average student is no longer a full-time 18-22 year-old but a part-time
                          continuing education student who already has regular employment.
“ If you tell me,         The needs of these learners are being met not only by the traditional
I will listen.
                          universities and colleges, but also by educational publishers, corporate
If you show me,
                          universities, “for profit universities” and training companies. Increasingly
I will see. If you        e-Learning is being used to allow learning to take place at the learner’s
let me experience,        convenience - any place, anytime.
I will learn. ”
                          Within the primary and secondary education sectors of many countries,
                          increasing use of IT in many subjects together with the networking of
                          schools is increasing demand for the
                                                             * provision of online resources.
                          There is a huge and burgeoning market for e-Learning. The pressure to
                          meet the demand for online courses quickly and inexpensively has led to
                          a state where:

                           “ We have used the Internet in a narrow fashion, like vast text books or
                           lectures on-line, instead of exploring its interactive potential.” (WBEC 2000)

                          This White Paper looks at ways in which the interactive potential of the
                          Internet can be realised and examines the issues involved in effectively
                          producing and integrating meaningful interactivity into online learning.

“ Interactivity results
 in deeper learning
                           2 The Importance of Interactivity
 because learners
 can hypothesise          2.1 What is Interactivity?
                          It is believed by many educationalists that interactive courseware
 to test their
                          which allows “learning by doing” arouses interest and generates
                          motivation providing a more engaging experience for the learner
 learn by mistakes        (e.g. Lewin 1951, Brookfield 1986). The much-used quote from Lao-Tse
 and make sense           written in the 5th century BC sums this up:
 of the unexpected.”
                                                   “If you tell me, I will listen
                                                   If you show me, I will see
                                             If you let me experience, I will learn.”

                          To those who hold this view, interactivity is seen as part of a system
                          where learners are not passive recipients of information, but engage with
                          material that is responsive to their actions. Interactivity results in deeper
                          learning because learners can hypothesise to test their understanding,
                          learn by mistakes and make sense of the unexpected (Kolb 1984) .

                          *The equivalent of K-12 in the US                                                   2
Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

                        Interactivity is important and there been a tendency to abuse the
                        term especially when marketing computer-based learning. E-Learning
                        that merely allows the learner to navigate content or take an online
                        test is often labelled as interactive. This does not meet the criteria for
                        meaningful interactivity outlined above, unlike, for example, that
                        provided by a simulation where a learner can actively explore a
                        simulated system or process.

                        2.2 Interactive Simulations
                        Simulations and modelling tools are the best examples of complex,
                        meaningful interactivity. Such applications model a real or theoretical
                        system, allowing users to manipulate input variables to change the
                        system behaviour and view the results. With such applications, learners
                        can construct and test hypotheses and receive feedback as a result of
                        their actions. There are great benefits to the learner if a static image
                        such as a diagram in a text book is replaced with a simulation:

                           “Simulations and visualization tools make it possible for students to
                           bridge experience and abstraction helping to deepen understanding
“ Simulations and                   of ambiguous or challenging content.” (WBEC 2000)
Visualization tools
make it possible for
                        Inclusion of interactive simulations in online courses will improve the
students to bridge
                        quality and outcomes of e-Learning.
experience and
abstraction helping     2.3 Teaching and Learning Styles
to deepen               The presentation of interactivity depends very much on the teaching
understanding of        style adopted by the course designer who will take account of the needs
ambiguous or            of the learner.

challenging content.”
                        2.3.1 Learning Styles
                        Learners do not all learn in the same way. Honey and Mumford (1992)
                        suggest there are four stages in learning and that a learner will have a
                        preference for one of the four stages.
                        This leads them to group learners as:
                             • Pragmatists who link what they learn to real life
                             • Reflectors who need time to reflect on what they are learning
                             • Theorists who want to think ideas through logically
                             • Activists who like a hands-on approach to learning,

                        These different types of learners would clearly benefit from the provision
                        of different types of interactive content and associated resources.

                        2.3.2 Teaching Styles
                        The teaching style adopted by an e-Learning course designer or a tutor
                        running the course may fall anywhere between that of pedagogue who
                        sees the learning process as something to be controlled by the teacher,
                        to facilitator who helps the learner construct their own understanding
                        of a subject. The style adopted will depend on the expertise of the
                        learner and the desired learning outcomes. In terms of simulations,
                        this might be reflected in the way in which tasks are set, the guidance
                        provided and the “openness” of the resources.

Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

                            2.4 Collaborative Interactivity
                            2.4.1 Importance of Communication in E-Learning
                            The e-Learning experience should be as rich as, if not richer than, the
                            traditional educational experience. Online learning allows learners to
                            access content at their own convenience, but they learn alone, separated
                            from one another by distance and time. Such students can lack the sense
                            of community that interaction with other learners and tutors can bring.
                            Learner-learner communication is often neglected, but is critically
“ The e-Learning            important in collaborative tasks requiring team-working skills where
experience should be        dialogue and social negotiation must take place. Indeed, it is this social
as rich as, if not richer   dimension that is the primary motivation for some types of learner
than, the traditional       (Houle 1996).

educational experience.”    Increasingly though, these problems are being addressed as online courses
                            run with dedicated instructors and tutors who, depending on their
                            teaching style will provide instruction, information, expertise, guidance
                            or facilitate dialogue. E-Learning, online communities are developed
                            through use of asynchronous techniques such as bulletin boards and
                            chat rooms, and synchronous solutions such as video conferencing.

                            2.4.2 Communication and Simulations
                            When a simulation is added to an online course, learners and tutors need
                            to communicate with more than words and images. Learners and tutors
                            must share the simulation if they are to communicate effectively about it.
                            Sharing simulations can take on-line learning far beyond the on-campus
                            experience as it provides opportunities for:
                                 • group experiential learning,
                                 • exploring multiple perspectives and
                                 • using collaborative learning to develop and share alternative views.
“ If interactive
simulations are to
become the norm              3 Key Issues
rather than the
                            If interactive simulations are to become the norm rather than the
exception in
                            exception in e-Learning, they should be as easy to produce, manipulate,
e-Learning, they            share and deliver as other media.
should be as easy to
                            Key issues in the inclusion of simulations in courseware are the:
produce, manipulate,
                                 • cost of production ;
share and deliver as             • quality of the end product.
other media.”
                            3.1 Improving the Cost of Production
                            Two ways in which the effective cost of production can be reduced are:
                                1. Faster, more efficient production processes;
                                2. Increased reusability.

                            3.1.1 Improving the Production Process
                            The most time-consuming component of online content to produce is
                            complex, meaningful interactivity, which usually requires programming
                            expertise. Programming resources are an expensive and often
                            scarce commodity.

Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

                           Two ways of reducing programmer effort are:
                               1. Provision of appropriate programming tools to streamline
                               2. Ensuring the development process allows appropriate experts
                                  to contribute to the design thus reducing the burden on
                                  the programmer.

                           3.1.2 Re-using Interactive Simulations.
                           For maximum reusability, content should be in a standard compliant
 “Compliance with          format that can be exchanged and re-used, cross platform and in
  developing standards
                           different delivery environments.
  that allow the content
  developer to mark        The idea of chunking learning as re-usable objects has been around
                           for some time now and has been adopted by a number of e-Learning
  up and categorise
                           producers and vendors. For example CISCO define RLOs (Re-usable
  learning content is      Learning Objects) the equivalent of a lesson and RIOs (Re-usable
  important to ensure      Information Objects) the equivalent of a page within that lesson (CISCO).
                           Compliance with developing standards that allow the content developer
  reusability and          to mark up and categorise learning content is important to ensure
  portability.”            interoperability, reusability and portability.

                           Currently there are three standards, hopefully moving towards
                           convergence, which provide specifications for tagging and
                           categorising content:

                               • Learning object metadata from the IEEE Learning Technology
                                 Standard Committee (LTSC) - a specification for tagging
                                 courseware components.
                               • IMS, (Instructional Management System) - specifications for locating
                                and using courseware components.
“ The quality of               • SCORM (Shareable Courseware Object Reference Model) - allowing
production can be                exchange and re-use of courseware components.
greatly improved
by allowing the            3.2 Improving the Quality
                           The e-Learning production process usually involves a team of specialists
appropriate experts
                           containing some combination of the following:
to contribute to
the design and                 •   education/training specialists
                               •   subject specialists
production process.”
                               •   graphic designers
                               •   software engineers
                               •   multimedia specialists
                               •   testers and QA specialists

                           The software engineer usually undertakes development of any complex
                           interactive simulations required in courseware. This effectively prevents
                           non-programming specialists becoming deeply involved in a production
                           process that should involve the whole team. The quality of production
                           can be greatly improved by allowing the appropriate experts to
                           contribute to the design and production process.

Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

                          There are essentially two phases in the production process of a simulation:

                               • The coding of the model defining its behaviour;
                               • The development of a visualisation of that model’s behaviour.

                          Improved tool sets that allow multimedia, subject and graphic design
                          specialists to construct visualisations in a graphical editing environment
                          whilst allowing software engineers to concentrate on developing the
                          model are highly desirable.

                          3.2.1 Customising Interactive Simulations
                          Ideally interactive simulations should be capable of being easily tailored
                          and customised to suit different courses and types of learners.

                          Section 3.1.2 outlined the importance of re-using learning objects,
                          which have been tagged (with some of a large number of possible criteria)
                          to indicate their area of use e.g. subject area, level of learner, language
                          etc. Once created, such a learning object has fixed functionality, it is not
                          easy to tailor it to suit different learning and teaching styles. Re-usability
                          can be taken one stage further if, as suggested above, the user interface
                          is developed separately from the model. A single model could then be
“ Ideally interactive     associated with any number of visualisations, each visualisation customised
simulations should
                          according to the requirements of different curricula, courses, teaching
be capable of being
                          style, or learner expertise to produce a new learning object. (See example
easily tailored and       in Figure 1)
customised to suit
different courses         3.3 Summary
and types of learners.”   Two themes have been identified as important in improving both cost
                          and quality of simulations. These are:

                          1. Making development of simulations a team process where all
                             courseware development specialists can contribute.
                          2. The importance of reusability and customisability.

                          4 The Future of Interactivity and Simulations
                          We have discussed current key issues in use of simulations in online
                          courses. In the future there are two key areas where the role of
                          simulations can be greatly enhanced:

                               • Collaborative working;
                               • Interoperability with e-Learning management systems and
                                 assessment tools.

                          4.1 Collaborative Use of Simulations
                          In a traditional educational setting, learners and teachers are face to face,
                          and communication between learners or learners and tutors takes place
                          as a matter of course. In e-Learning, groups of learners can be online at
                          the same time in timetabled sessions i.e. synchronously or at different
                          times to suit their own convenience i.e. asynchronously. Collaborative
                          access to simulations should be provided to suit both modes of use.

Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

                                                    Visualisation 1   METADATA:
                                                                      TITLE: Sunrise and Sunset
                                                                      INTERACTIVITY TYPE: Simulation
                                                                      LEARNING CONTEXT: Secondary Ed.

                             GEOMETRY               Visualisation 2    METADATA:
                             ALGORITHM                                 TITLE: Solar Geometry
                                                                       INTERACTIVITY TYPE: Simulation
                                                                       LEARNING CONTEXT: Tech Sch. 1st cycle

“Tutors may intervene to                            Visualisation 3    METADATA:
                                                                       TITLE: Azimuth and Day Length
correct misconceptions,                                                INTERACTIVITY TYPE: Linked Simulations
                                                                       LEARNING CONTEXT: HE 1st cycle
answer questions,
challenge the learner’s
understanding or
                           Figure 1 Example of enhanced reusability
promote dialogue.
Shared access to
simulations is
important for
communication in
all these scenarios.”      4.1.1 Communication Between Tutor and Learners
                           In e-Learning, depending on the type of course, the role of any tutor
                           can vary from that of instructor, guide, expert or facilitator. Tutors may
                           intervene to correct misconceptions, answer questions, challenge the
                           learners’ understanding or promote dialogue. Shared access to
                           simulations is important for communication in all these scenarios.

                           4.1.2 Communication Between Learners
                           Equally important in learning theories such as constructivism, is the role
                           of dialogue between learners whom it is believed construct their own
“ Collaborative access     understanding and validate it by discussion with their peers.
to simulations provides
a powerful learning        Collaborative access to simulations facilitates:
experience in which             • learning through construction and
                                • learning through dialogue.
learners share much
more than words            It provides a powerful learning experience in which learners share
and images. ”              much more than words and images.

                           4.1.3 Asynchronous Communication
                           Learners who are not online together who wish to communicate about
                           a simulation must be able to:

                                • Save and restore state: i.e. Refer to a common visualisation of a
                                  simulation and its state (the values of parameters in the system
                                  being simulated)
                                • Record and replay: i.e. demonstrate a sequence of actions leading
                                  to a given state
                                • Annotate: so as to highlight a point or focus attention.

                           So, for example, a learner using a simulation might be puzzled as to why
                           it behaves in a certain way. Learners should be able to save the state of

Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

                            the simulation and post it to a bulletin board or email it to their tutors
                            with the appropriate question. The tutor can load the simulation, see the
                            actions the learner has taken and then reply to the question, including
                            an amended simulation state as part of the answer.

                            Questions and answers can be stored as FAQs providing additional
                            resources for future students, easing the burden on the tutor.

                            4.1.4 Synchronous Sharing of Simulations
“ Unlike the traditional    Shared networked access to simulations allows a range of educational
 lecture theatre, all       scenarios to be implemented. These not only duplicate the “face to face”
 users have access to       experience (classrooms, tutorials and practical sessions), but can go a
 the simulation and         stage further by enabling simulated team role play. Here, learners take
                            on different roles and interact with a simulation in a way that reflects
 the lecturer can cede
                            their responsibilities and place in the team hierarchy.
 control to learners
 to allow them to ask       To provide flexible collaborative access to a simulation the following
                            functionality must be provided:
 or answer questions. ”
                                 • Concurrent access to the same running simulation model
                                 • Different visualisations to suit the varying roles and preferences
                                   of users
                                 • Access control to allow each user appropriate access to the
                                   model variables

                            With this flexibility, a range of learning scenarios suited to different
                            styles is possible:
                                 • Online lectures and virtual classrooms: Here, a teacher controls
                                   the flow of information to the learners. The traditional media
                                   (audio, video and text) can be augmented by use of simulations.
                                   Unlike the traditional lecture theatre, all users have access to the
“ Remote learners work             simulation and the lecturer can cede control to learners to allow
in pairs or small groups           them to ask or answer questions. Record and replay functionality
sharing a networked                allows the learners to view these interactive demonstrations as
simulation to design               well as the lecture itself.
and control experiments          • Online laboratory sessions: Here as in traditional laboratory
                                   exercises or practical sessions, remote learners work in pairs or
and discuss the results.”
                                   small groups sharing a networked simulation to design and
                                   control experiments and discuss the results. Tutors can look at
                                   what each group is doing and may:
                                       • intervene with a group if they feel help is necessary
                                       • answer questions and provide help when asked
                                       • intervene with the whole class if a question of general
                                         interest arises
                                       • introduce subtle variations according to student performance.

                                • Team role playing: Here each team member can view or change
                                  variables appropriate to their role. Tutors have access to all model
                                  variables and could perturb a smoothly working system to see how
                                  a team cope. This opens the door to team building activities such
                                  as just-in-time crisis management.

Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

                               4.2 Integrating Simulations with E-Learning Tools
                               Increasingly, online courses are being delivered through a Learning
                               Management System (LMS), a computer-based system that provides a
                               suite of tools to manage and deliver course materials and assessment.
                               Facilitating interoperability and integration of simulations with these
                               tools can deliver substantial benefits to the quality of e-Learning.

                               4.2.1 Learning Management System
                               In an LMS, individual learner profiles are interfaced to appropriate back
                               office systems tracking learner progress. It should be as easy to report
                               student progress and activity in a simulation to any LMS, as it is to report
                               on use of any other course components. Compliance with standards such
                               as IEEE LTSC, IMS, SCORM and AICC (The Aviation Industry CBT Committee)
                               are important if this goal is to be achieved

                               4.2.2 Assessment Tools
                               Computer Assisted Assessment (CAA) has great potential : it can stimulate,
                               motivate, be diagnostic and reinforce learning by providing directed
                               feedback (Freeman et al 1998). Nonetheless CAA has many detractors
“ Combining the interactive,   who criticise the approach as being a poor test of a student’s deeper
exploratory nature of          knowledge. The Web-based Education Commission to Congress recognise
simulations with the           the potential of extending assessment:
diagnostic opportunities
                                 “Possibilities for new kinds of questions using multimedia, simulations
of assessment has great         and other resources to assess sophisticated learning goals (e.g., problem
potential to enrich the                         solving, visualisation, and modelling)” (WBEC)
learning experience.”
                               Combining the interactive, exploratory nature of simulations with the
                               diagnostic opportunities of assessment has great potential to enrich
                               the learning experience. Currently assessment engines are limited in
                               the types of questions that can be handled (multiple choice, ranking,
                               matching, drag and drop). Integrating simulations with assessment
                               allows the student to explore and experiment before submitting a far
                               more complex answer (the simulation state) than a single value or
                               choice from a list.

                               New types of question testing all levels of learning can be developed.
                               For example:
                                    1. Place a simulation in a state to demonstrate a named behaviour.
                                    2. Given a set of system variables, sketch the predicted behaviour.
                                    3. Map a real world scenario into a simulation state.
                                    4. Fix a simulation system containing a malfunctioning component.
                                    5. Define the interrelationship of parameters within a simulated
                                       system. i.e. work out the governing equation.
                                    6. Optimise system performance.

                               Full integration with an assessment engine would also allow the tutor
                               to help the learner develop understanding by providing appropriate
                               feedback (e.g. an ideal simulation state) if the answer were incorrect.

Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

                            5 The MultiVerse Vision
                           The MultiVerse vision is to unlock the full potential of interactive
                           simulations within e-Learning courseware. We develop and supply tools
                           and utilities to content producers who share our vision for e-Learning.
                           Our aim is to simplify the production of simulations so that their inclusion
                           in online courses becomes the norm rather than the exception.

                           Four themes underlie the MultiVerse product strategy:
“The MultiVerse vision          1. Improving reusability.
is to unlock the full           2. Streamlining (shortening and improving) the production process.
potential of interactive        3. Empowering experts to participate to an ever greater extent in
                                   the development process.
simulations within
                                4. Building a community of users who contribute to and share
e-Learning courseware.”            interactive components.

                           MultiVerse tools are designed for all stages in the production of
                           interactive simulations from design and development, to deployment.
                           A hallmark of the company’s approach is the provision of maximum
                           flexibility at all these stages. The tools are flexible enough to suit
                           developers whatever teaching style they adopt.

                           5.1 MultiVerse Interactive Simulations - The eSim
                           In a nutshell, MultiVerse provides a flexible design environment
                           facilitating the cost effective creation and deployment of educational
                           simulations. One of the key differences between using MultiVerse
                           tools and the production of hand-crafted bespoke simulations is the
                           independent development of:

                                1. The model controlling the behaviour of simulation and the
“ Our aim is to simplify        2. The visualisation of that model.
 the production of
                           One model can be associated with many different visualisations to suit
 simulations so that       different teaching styles, levels of expertise and courses. We term the
 their inclusion in        combination of a model and a single visualisation (user interface) an
 online courses becomes    eSim (See Figure 2).
 the norm rather than
 the exception. ”
                                                               input variables

                                   MODEL                                               VISUALISATION
                                                           output variables

                                code controlling                                            the learner’s
                               system behaviour                                          view of the system

                           Figure 2 The structure of an eSim

Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

                       5.2 The eSim Development Process
                       When a topic requires a simulation, the entire development team can be
                       involved in its design and production.

                               Identify need for interactive content

                                              ONE MODEL

                                     Design for future needs
                                 (generalise to ensure neutrality)

                                         Model production

                                     MANY VISUALISATIONS

“ All members of the                  Design for current need
                              (focus to specific learner requirement)
team can contribute
to the design and
production of the
                             Rapid prototype           If necessary
user interface using           with existing            create new
the MultiVerse              interface objects         generic objects

eSim Builder. ”
                                      Visualisation production

                                       Simulation Deployment

                       tasks undertaken by:

                         ANY TEAM MEMBER          SOFTWARE ENGINEER

                       Figure 3 The eSim development process

                       There is no limit to the number of visualisations that can be built from
                       one model. The eSim development process reflects this. Interfaces to
                       suit different curricula, courses, learner levels and learning styles can
                       be constructed from the same model. The team, in particular subject
                       specialists, consider all potential eSims that may be produced from a
                       model. The model is then designed generically to encompass this and
                       is developed using the MultiVerse model building tools.

Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

                         All members of the team can contribute to the design and production of
                         the visualisation using the MultiVerse eSim Builder; it is effectively
                         a collaborative process. New objects may be required to build a
                         visualisation. These new objects can be used in visualisations for other
                         models and are designed to be as generic as possible. Any member of the
                         team can carry out design and deployment of the visualisation to the web.

                         5.3 The Basic Toolset
                         The basic toolset written entirely in Java consists of three groups of tools:

                              1. Model construction tools
                              2. Interface construction tools
                              3. Deployment tools

                         The entire team is empowered to take part in the design process.

                         5.3.1 Model Construction Tools
                         The model construction toolset is currently designed for use by software
                         engineers and consists of tools aiding the rapid production of code
                         defining model behaviour:
“ The visualisation is   The suite of tools includes the following
constructed separately
                         Programmer’s API
to the model and the
                              This provides the appropriate Java methods to:
software engineer             • make model variables accessible in the visualisation so they can
can ignore issues               be displayed using interface components
such as the layout            • specify code, which runs when a user undertakes a specific action
of the interface.”            • save and restore model state.

                             This simplifies the programmers’ task by producing Java code
                             stubs for methods defined in the API.

                         The visualisation is constructed separately to the model and the
                         software engineer can ignore issues such as the layout of the interface.
                         Communication between model and interface is handled by the
                         MultiVerse API. Software engineers are free to concentrate effort in
                         an area where their skills are most needed.

                         5.3.2 Interface Construction Tools
                         The eSim Builder allows the designer to build up a visualisation by placing
                         and tailoring visualisation objects such as sliders, digitals, gauges and
                         graphs on an interface canvas. In the initial stages of design these objects
                         can be used to prototype a layout before the model is created. Once the
                         model is available, the visualisation objects can be easily linked to
                         variables in the model. Changes to the visualisation can be made to
                         rapidly try out new interface designs. As it is possible to switch between
                         edit and simulation mode within the MultiVerse Interface Builder, it is
                         also easy to test out the functionality of new interfaces.

Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

                           If new display objects are required the software engineer can:
                               • enhance existing display objects
                               • add external display objects
                               • create new display objects
                               • create a new object from a group of existing objects.

                          All members of the team can contribute to the design of the visualisation.
                          The construction of an interface is as easy as constructing an image in a
                          standard graphical editor.

                          5.3.3 Web Deployment Tools
                          The deployment tools allow the course designer to publish an eSim to
                          the web. The tools automatically package all necessary files to allow the
                          eSim to be slotted easily into any web browser delivered courseware.

                          5.4 Community of Users
                          Re-usability and customisability are extremely important to the MultiVerse
                          ethos. Reusability is built into the system at every level, from the models
                          to the visualisation components.
“ The construction of     To ensure the benefits of re-usability are maximized, the Company is
an interface is as easy   building an online market of re-usable MultiVerse components: models,
as constructing an        interface objects and eSims. The Company will seed the repository and
image in a standard       continually contribute to it. Other producers of MultiVerse eSims will
graphical editor. ”       be encouraged to upload components, which they can choose to sell or
                          make freely available to the community of users.

                           6 The Future
                          Two themes run through the future MultiVerse tool development:
                              1. Empowering experts to participate to an ever greater extent in
                                 the development process
                              2. Improving the educational flexibility and viability of simulations
                                and other interactive content.

                          The following tools, designed to take our vision forwards, are
                          in development.

                          6.1 Empowering Expertise
                          6.1.1 Model Building Tools for the Non-Programmer
                          One of the areas where the programmer is still required in eSim
                          production is the construction of the model. A toolkit is being
                          developed which makes the model building process more accessible
                          to the non-programmer by allowing drag and drop construction of
                          model behaviour.

                          A series of toolkits related to different subject areas is planned.

Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

                             6.1.2 The Collaboration in the Development Team
                             The Company plans the introduction of a collaborative tool with the
                             functionality outlined in section (4.1.4) allowing multiple users to design
                             eSims. Developers or developers and clients remote from one another
                             will be able to synchronously design and implement interface changes
                             and discuss and review them immediately. This will provide greatly
                             enhanced productivity.

                             6.2 Improving the Educational Experience
“ Developers or developers
and clients remote from      6.2.1 Collaborative Learning
one another will be able     The collaborative toolset will be extremely valuable in an educational
to synchronously             environment allowing access to a range of teaching scenarios. The tools
                             are not prescriptive as to the learning models they adopt and can be of
design and implement
                             use in the wide range of scenarios outlined in section 4.1.4.
interface changes and
discuss and review           6.2.2 Integration with other E-Learning Tools
them immediately. ”          Future tools will be interoperable with assessment engines and LMSs
                             and will implement the functionality described in section 4.2. Designers
                             will be able to specify the type of information they wish collected by an
                             assessment engine or LMS as the learner uses an eSim.

                             It will be possible to collect information about:
                                   • when a student began and finished using an eSim
                                   • what variables they changed and when.

                             As well as improving online assessment, such functionality will provide an
                             extremely useful monitor of how students use simulations and aid in the
                             identification of students having difficulties.

                             6.2.3 Interface Overlays
“ Future tools will be       An interface overlay is essentially a portion of the interface that can
interoperable with           be hidden until required. It’s useful for designers who want to provide
assessment engines           additional information to users such as
and Learning
                                  •   explaining how to undertake a task
management Systems. ”             •   showing a correct answer
                                  •   providing annotations or hints
                                  •   focussing attention.

                             Use of an interface overlay provides another level of customisability
                             for the designer who wishes to tailor an eSim to more closely match the
                             level and learning style of a learner.

                             6.2.4 Event Triggers
                             The event trigger can provide an important addition for the designer
                             who wants to provide feedback to the learner.

                             A trigger condition might be set:
                                  • to help learners in difficulties
                                  • if they answer a question incorrectly
                                  • if the simulation is in a state which requires explanation
                                  • as part of a predetermined sequence.

Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

                              The designer will be able to specify a system condition under which
                              an “event” will be triggered.

                              Typical events include:
                                   • display of an informative message
                                   • playing a video or audio sequence
                                   • providing links to external information
                                   • making an interface overlay visible.

                              Again, this functionality will enable the content designer to further
“ Cost effective production   customise content to meet their learners’ disparate needs.
of interactive simulations
through streamlining
development processes,
                              7 Summary
ensuring maximum
                              There is unrealised potential in the use of interactive simulations in
re-usability and
                              e-Learning. The MultiVerse vision is to realise this potential. Our aim is
expanding the pool
                              to ensure that course designers have a flexible non-prescriptive tool that
of specialists able to        allows them to use simulations in the way that best suits their end users
undertake production          whatever their individual needs, situation, language or learning styles.
is the way ahead.”            Cost effective production of interactive simulations though streamlining
                              development processes, ensuring maximum re-usability and expanding
                              the pool of specialists able to undertake production, is the way ahead.

Interactivity and Simulations in e-Learning

8 References
  • Stephen D. Brookfield (1986) Understanding and facilitating adult
   learning. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. ISBN 1-55542-355-8.

  • CISCO. Reusable Learning Object Strategy. Definition, Creation
    Process and Guidelines for Building CISCO Systems Inc.

  • Freeman, R., and Lewis, R., (1998) Planning and Implementing
   Assessment, Kogan Page.

  • Honey P and Mumford A (1992) The Manual of Learning Styles,
   Maidenhead, Peter Honey

  • Houle, Cyril.O (1996) The Design of Education, Jossey Bass Wiley;
   ISBN: 0787902098

  • Kolb, David (1984) Experiential learning: Experience as the source
   of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall,
   ISBN 0-13295-261-0

  • Lewin, K. (1951) Field theory in social science: selected theoretical
   papers. D. Cartwright (Ed.). New York: Harper & Row

  • Merrill Lynch, 1999. The Book of Knowledge: Investing in the
   Growing Education and Training Industry.

  • WBEC The Power of the Internet for Learning. Report of the
   Web-Based Education Commission to the President and Congress
   of the United States. (19.12.00)

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